After being close to retirement, former Tour de France yellow jersey wearer Linus Gerdemann returns to the sport in 2014 after signing a two-year deal with MTN Qhubeka. He will team up with close friend and fellow German Gerald Ciolek.
Whilst not being an active member of the professional peloton, Gerdemann kept an eye on the cycling scene. Ciolek's victory at Milan-San Remo was the moment that sparked his desire to make a comeback.
"I've trained for a long time with him. For me, he is like a young cycling brother as we spend a lot of time together on the bike and off the bike. It was such a great moment for me [when Ciolek won Milan-San Remo] because I knew he had that potential and I was really happy to see him use it in one of the most important races on the calendar and that was very inspiring and motivating for me," Gerdemann told Cyclingnews.
Gerdemann turned professional in 2005 with CSC. He was part of Team Columbia (2008), Milram (2009/2010), Leopard-Trek (2011) and Radioshack-Nissan (2012). His contract with the team was not renewed, forcing him to sit out the 2013 season.
“I wasn’t bored at all,” Gerdemann said about his year off the bike. “I felt more relaxed as a person. I bought a house and renovated it, which was totally different to working in cycling so it was nice to change the normal way of life. It was a good year for me personally but now I am looking forward to competing and being successful.”
Gerdemann started his preparation for the new season by increasing the mileage on the bike this week. The MTN-Qhubeka training camp is in December but he has already done some testing with the team in October. Gerdemann’s condition was good and he expects to be close to his best in March.
MTN-Qhubeka is aiming for a wildcard invitation in a Grand Tour in 2014. Gerdemann adds valuable experience to the South Africa team because he finished six of the eight Grand Tours he started.
“I want to improve next year but I also hope to guide the younger riders so we can enjoy success together as a team. I think it’s going to be great for us all to see the riders from Africa compete at this level.”
MTN-Qhubeka will have a roster of 25 riders in 2014: 18 of African descent and seven international riders. The South African team added four newcomers to the 21-rider roster of 2013. As well as as Gerdemann, the Eritreans Merhawi Kudus and Daniel Teklehaymanot (Orica-GreenEdge) signed for the team, while John Lee Augustyn returns to the sport after a long period of injury and inactivity.